15th Avenue E Coffee & Tea. Inspired by Starbucks?



15th Avenue Coffee & Tea Sign, originally uploaded by andai.

15th Avenue East Coffee and Tea opened their doors bright and early this morning and I was in the vicinity later that morning. As I drove by the store around 8 AM, and it was interesting to note that there wasn’t a huge crowd trying to get into the store to try it out. Yes it looked like there were a few folks in there placing orders, but nothing yet like I would have expected after all the publicity they had been getting of late. But then again, it was still early and the day was young. And there were probably folk out there like me who are not necessarily going to go in on the first day, but will certainly visit the place and give it a try… at the very least to be able to say, “Yeah, I’ve tried their coffee and I think it’s…”

Regardless, what I found to be actually more interesting to me was the signage on the door of the ‘new’ shop. The signage stated the name of the store then included the phrase “Inspired by Starbucks” Now that is what I thought that was pretty hilarious on a couple of fronts.

First, despite all the hoopla that has been made about removing the Starbucks name and brand from the store, they just couldn’t help but find a way to put that name in there somewhere, and right on the front door where it smacks you right in the face. A friendly slap in the face to remind you that yes, you are entering Starbucks property. But the second and even more hilarious aspect of that phrase was it brought to mind the question as to why an ‘indie’ store would really be proud of being inspired by Starbucks. I mean, even if this was indeed a truly indie store, would they really be inspired by Starbucks? I don’t know, to me it was a rather bizarre statement (or tag line) to put in. I think they should take out that piece of verbiage.

For a couple of reasons I decided I didn’t want to drop in for a drink and so I continued on my way. I passed by Victrola Coffee which had a couple of people sitting outside enjoying their drinks. A few doors down also on my left is Caffé Ladro which had at least 5 people in line waiting to place their orders. I eventually ended up at the Whole foods along Denny Way and there I got an excellent Allegro Coffee latte. The espresso was pulled by a really cool barista with tons of tattoos on her arms and legs. She frothed the milk and I noted how she carefully poured the milk into the espresso shots and completing it with a nice thick head of foam, topped off with a beautiful Rosetta. She then presented it to me with extreme pride… this was her art.

And as I was enjoying my latte, I thought to myself, this is what Starbucks is missing. Starbucks does not seem to have the baristas who are passionate about their coffee and their culture. For too long I think Starbucks baristas have their orders from corporate with procedures on how to do everything. In other words, this is corporate culture, not coffee culture.

Well, I can only say Starbucks really needs to step up its game and serve great espresso that looks like real espresso, and employ baristas who live and breathe the coffee culture not corporate culture. I don’t think Starbucks is going away, not by any means, but I do think that Starbucks has become a commodity and their little experiment will certainly fizzle out if they can’t reinvent themselves and bring that real coffee culture that seems to have slipped through their fingers.

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